It’s the time of year where there’s not much exciting happening, but, of course, I’ve still been getting out. I’m catching up a bit here today because with the 4th of July holiday, I was able to get out Monday and Tuesday as well as this weekend. I’ve been mostly sticking to my usual haunts in Orange County, but I’ve also checked out some spots in Ulster and Sullivan Counties, to mix it up a little bit.
Locally, I dipped on the Neotropic Cormorant at the Newburgh Waterfront a couple of times since the end of June when Bruce Nott discovered that it had returned. Hopefully I’ll catch up with it sooner than later. In the black dirt, I was happy to catch up with some juvenile Horned Larks this morning; I’ve been on the lookout for them. And, I found even more Killdeer chicks this morning; they seem to be everywhere this year.
Outside of OC, my favorite trip was heading up to Peekamoose Road yesterday morning. I just love the name of that road, first off, but the spot is really worthwhile. I missed my target bird (Mourning Warbler), but got excellent binocular views of both Canada Warblers and Blackburnian Warblers. It was also a treat to hear several Winter Wrens singing; I was never able to lay eyes on them unfortunately.
On my way home yesterday, I stopped at the Bashakill. I checked in on the Prothonotary Warbler at the Stop Sign trail – I heard the bird but it never came close enough for looks. I enjoyed a few other stops at the Bash, including the Deli Fields where I got some decent shots of a Red-eyed Vireo (one of those birds always heard but not seen nearly as often). Earlier in the week, I birded The Grasslands in Ulster County, where I enjoyed hearing and finally locating and photographing a Grasshopper Sparrow just south of the viewing platform. My target bird was Upland Sandpiper (at Grasslands and Blue Chip Farm), but that was always a long shot.
In some ways it’s hard to believe it’s July already, but with the birding doldrums kicking in, it sure feels like summer. On Saturday morning I headed to Sullivan County in an effort to spice things up a little bit. I birded Hickok Brook Multiple Use Area, hoping to get lucky with a Ruffed Grouse. I’ve had them there in the past, but on Saturday I didn’t have any good fortune. Still, I really enjoyed the morning and it was good to see and hear some species that I don’t see as often in Orange County, such as Magnolia Warblers, Blackburnian Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and Hermit Thrushes.
On Saturday evening, Tricia and I enjoyed a cocktail on the back deck. The birds were active, so I grabbed my camera and grabbed some shots of some the birds that are nesting in the yard.
On Sunday I stayed in Orange County – I found a very distant perched and singing Grasshopper Sparrow at the OC Airport. Aside from that, there wasn’t much to report on and the poor light did not lend itself to good photos. There are still many Killdeer and Killdeer chicks around, both at the airport and in the black dirt.
This morning I headed out to the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area to try for the PROTHONATORY WARBLER which had been present for 6 days. Well, make it 7 days, as the bird was still present and with some patience I got some fabulous looks and some decent photos. Huge thanks to John Haas, who got me on the bird initially, and Scotty Baldinger, who got me on it for my photos. It was great to see them, as well as some of my other favorite birders, Mary B, PJ Singh, Jeff and Liz Zahn, and Karen Miller. The PROTHONOTARY WARBLER was a life bird for me (#443), and of course, a Sullivan County bird (#208).
I spent yesterday on Long Island visiting with my family; it had been a while, so it was really great to make up for lost time. But, that meant no birding. So, I woke up early this morning, hoping that the weather would bring in some good birds. I was at the Newburgh Waterfront just after sunrise, but unfortunately there was nothing going on. It was hight tide, as I knew it would be, so that may have had something to do with it.
I also checked a couple of lakes in the Newburgh area and came up empty. Then John Haas put out an alert that he had several CASPIAN TERNS at the Bashakill. It took me what seemed like ages to get there, but the birds stuck around. There ended up being a total of (7) Caspian Terns in all, and they did offer a few decent photos ops as they flew back and forth over Haven Road. It was very enjoyable birding, and CATE was my 207th species in Sullivan County, so that is exciting.
After leaving the Bash, I just cruised around southern Orange County to see what I could find. The birding was just the usuals (American Pipits in the black dirt was the highlight), but by a stroke of luck I found a litter of Red Fox kits. They were just awesome – inquisitive to a certain extent, but mostly just very cautious and of course, cute as can be. As much as I enjoyed the terns, these little beasts made my day.
I headed to Sullivan County this snowy morning. I covered a decent amount of ground in the Parksville area, hoping for Evening Grosbeaks or maybe get lucky with Ruffed Grouse. Neither came to fruition, so I headed to the Neversink Reservoir, where I had a little more luck. I found 5 very confiding Snow Buntings feeding on the roadside. I enjoyed watching and photographing the birds; cursing the poor light as I did so.
I wanted to check Rondout Reservoir next, but the snow was falling at a decent clip and the road I wanted to take hadn’t been treated at all, so I bailed. I headed to the Bashakill instead. Haven Road was productive, with 8 species of waterfowl, 3 Bald Eagles, and a handful of Rusty Blackbirds. I was thwarted by the snow again, when I went to the Main Boat Launch to try for the multitude of waterfowl that has been reported there. No cars had entered the parking area and the snow looked just a little too substantial to risk it.
When Karen Miller invited me to be on her team for this year’s Sullivan County Feathered Frenzy, I jumped at the opportunity to break out of the winter birding routine. The Feathered Frenzy is a friendly contest where teams try to locate as many species as they can in a single day in Sullivan County. Karen and I had a really great time; it was great to catch up, do some good birding, and enjoy the sunny beautiful day (in spite of the cold temperatures and a wickedly cold wind). Scotty Baldinger emailed an excellent write-up on the event, and was kind enough to allow me to use it for this post:
Sullivan County Feathered Frenzy, by Scotty Baldinger
Five teams competed in this year’s Feathered Frenzy racing around the county to find as many birds as possible in one day for Sullivan County. Weather conditions were pretty decent for February. Mostly sunny with temps starting out in the upper 20s ranging into mid to upper 30s during the day. It was very windy especially during the morning portion of today’s event with some gusts as high as 25 miles an hour. With open water on the Bashakill and the Rondout Reservoir, we had an excellent mix of waterfowl.
It was a fun filled and exciting day with a total of 63 species found in Sullivan County! Congrats to the team of John Haas, Bruce Nott, and Scott Graber on their outstanding total of 53 species for the day. They found the only American Kestrel, Pine Siskin, Brown Creepers, Belted Kingfisher, and Cooper’s Hawk in the county. The team of Scott Baldinger, Steve Altman with an assist from Paula Baldinger in the early morning logged 48 species for the day. They found the only Great-horned Owl, Green-winged Teals, and Turkey Vulture in the county. The team of Karen Miller and Matt Zeitler rolled in with 40 species, finding the only Northern Harrier, Merlin, and Northern Flicker in the county. The team of Renee Davis and Marge Gorton also rolled in with 40 species, finding the only Golden Eagle and Brown-headed Cowbird in the county. The team of Patrick and Riley Dechon came in with 30 species on the day, finding the only Black Vultures in the county. Congratulations to all who participated in this great event. See full species list at the bottom of this post.
On Sunday morning I finally was able to run for the good waterfowl that Kyle Knapp had located at Greenwood Lake earlier in the week. Noteworthy birds included: 9 Redheads, 1 American Coot, 2 Greater Scaup, and a single Canvasback. I also went to the Greenwood Lake Fire Department – where Kyle found 5 Lesser Scaup earlier in the morning. Then, at Round Lake, I found another 2 Greater Scaup. That’s some pretty good birds for Orange County in February!
Feathered Frenzy species list:
American Black Duck
American Tree Sparrow
Team Davis: 8.5 hours Total 162 miles
Team Miller: 9.75 hours Total 95 miles
Team Dechon: 6 hours Total 108 miles
Team Haas: 10.5 hours Total 142 miles
Team Baldinger: 10.25 hours Total 173 miles
Again, thanks to all who participated in this year’s Feathered Frenzy!
I know winter doesn’t technically start for another 10 days, but today certainly had a wintery feel to it. What a difference a day makes – yesterday was crisp and full of light but today was dark, gray, and snowy. Interestingly, it felt just as refreshing to be out both days – there is something I really enjoy about cold weather birding. I tried for the Hammond’s Flycatcher again this morning for nearly 3 hours before heading to the black dirt, where it was quite birdy. I didn’t find anything as exciting as yesterday, but still I had some really good winter birds, including: Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs, American Tree Sparrows, a Merlin, and a small flock of Snow Geese. Here is a collection of what I would consider typical winter birding images from the area.
My original plan this morning was foiled. I was going to hike at Black Rock Forest with winter finches on my mind, but when I arrived, the forest was closed due to hunting season. It’s closed until 12/11/22, so maybe I’ll try again in a couple of weeks.
I eventually decided to head up to Sullivan County. I wanted to add Snow Goose to my Sullivan County list; one had been reported at Phillipsport Marsh. Unfortunately, the bird was not present when I arrived. So I continued to Rondout Reservoir to try for the sea ducks John Haas wrote about on his blog yesterday.
When I arrived, it was unclear to me where these birds might be – Rondout Reservoir is huge! I went to the Sullivan County portion of the reservoir (at the northernmost area). As I walked up, it was a Bald Eagle bonanza. There were two adults sitting on the shore with a fish between them, as well as two young birds flying in the vicinity. It made for some good photo ops – I haven’t had a good opportunity with any eagles in a while, so I enjoyed it as well as the results.
Just as the eagles settled down, Renee Davis pulled up and gave me the lowdown on the sea ducks. Not only that, she drove back to the spot and got me on the birds immediately: (1) SURF SCOTER and (2) LONG-TAILED DUCKS. Huge thanks to Renee for all the help. The birds were distant, but the light was perfect so I had excellent looks in my scope. Photos were a different story, as you can see below. The Surf Scoter was my 206th bird in Sullivan County. Hopefully the Snow Goose will stick around and I’ll get another shot at it.
This morning I headed to Sullivan County to follow up on some of the shorebird action John Haas and others have had there recently. I was hoping for some good photo ops, or that maybe I might see something special. I also thought that I still needed Greater Yellowlegs for the county, but I checked eBird when I got home and I’d had one in Hurleyville back in May; it was not a memorable siting as you can tell.
My first stop was Morningside Park, where I didn’t have a large variety of shorebirds (Killdeer and Least, Semipalmated, & Spotted Sandpipers), but as always the photo ops were incredible, in spite of the overcast, low light conditions. I enjoyed spending time up-close with the Leasts and the Semisandpipers; while the Spotteds kept their distance and the Killdeer were flyovers.
While I was at Morningside, I spoke with John and he suggested my next stops should be Swan Lake and Lake Jefferson. Swan Lake didn’t have all that many birds present, but there was some decent variety: Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Pectoral Sandpiper. Lake Jefferson proved to be my most productive stop; I had (7) species of shorebirds there (Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, and Lesser Yellowlegs).
Back in Orange County, I stopped at Bullville Pond to check out conditions there. The pond is mostly dried up, but there was a good number of shorebirds still present (KILL, LESA, SPSA, SOSA, LEYE). Also of note, on Friday evening I found (4) American Golden-Plovers in the black dirt. They were a little distant for good photos, but it was nice to see them and to document.
Today while I was working I received an alert on the Mearns Bird Club app; John Haas had a RED-NECKED PHALAROPE at Morningside Park. I immediately knew I would run for the bird after work if it stuck around. John reported the bird again in the mid afternoon, so things were looking good.
I tried to not speed too much on my way to Morningside Park, I’d already been delayed because I had to put air in one of my tires. I arrived, put my kayak in the water and headed out. I made the rounds of all the mud/stump islands in the lake, but didn’t have any luck. There was a good number of shorebirds present, I had: Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Killdeer, a Spotted Sandpiper, a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs, and (6) SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS. Normally this would be a banner day, but I was itchy about the phalarope and beginning to think it had moved on.
On my second go-round, I was happy to see the Red-necked Phalarope come in and land at the island where I was looking. I “parked” my kayak in the muddy shore and watched, photographed, and just enjoyed this incredible little bird. The bird was beautiful and extremely confiding, making its way closer and closer to me and never flushing. It was a very special birding experience, one that I won’t forget any time soon. What a bird.
John called as I was making my way back to shore. I told him how it went – he stopped me in my tracks when I mentioned the dowitchers. They hadn’t been there earlier, so John jumped in his car and joined me at the park to get them just before darkness fell. Huge thanks and congrats to John for finding and reporting a great bird. Check out his shore birding accounts from the day here.